There’s a global push for doctors and patients to use antibiotics more judiciously, largely because overusing them is contributing to growing resistance—meaning that some infections that were previously treatable no longer respond well to medications. Now, a new study in mice suggests that antibiotics may come with another potential health consequence. They could be interfering with the microbiome—a community of bacteria that live in the gut and elsewhere—and these changes may be passed down through generations and may cause disease.
In the study, published Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers gave healthy pregnant mice either a normal microbiome or one that had been exposed to antibiotics. Once the mice pups were born, the researchers found that the microbiome changes in the mothers had been passed on to their offspring.
The researchers also looked at a group of mice that were engineered to be at a higher risk for developing colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The researchers followed the offspring of these mice for five months and discovered that the pups who had been born to a mother with a microbiome perturbed by antibiotics had substantially worse colitis than the mice that inherited a normal microbiome.